Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Archive for the tag “Sewing Room”

Needlebook Makes Me Happy

As you can see from this blog, I’m crazy busy these days with law school and keeping Beautiful Textiles running!! However, an unexpected class cancellation and need to do SOMETHING creative to preserve my sanity made me decide that this was the perfect time to FINALLY make the little needlebook I’ve been jonesing for over a year for!!

Now, 5 seconds of googling for inspiration will show you all these stunning examples:needlebook banner

This is exactly WHY it had taken me over a year! I’d been agonizing over the design, decoration, and colors. (I have the most amazing ability to make big huge life-changing decisions quickly and easily and get hung up on flavors of ice cream and design choices of tiny inconsequential nonsense. What can I say? It’s a gift, really!!)

I decided this was ridiculous and went through my pile of upholstery scraps. There is no law that needlebooks must be made from felt! I wanted to use up some small scraps I didn’t have another use for rather than angsting about felt colors! Well, you know those cute little color samplers that you can never find a use for?
(Upholstery stores and design centers often have a ton they’re throwing away. That’s also where the little square I picked for my cover came from.)
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The square swatch I chose for a cover was a wonderfully textured velvet, and the color sampler for the inside ‘pages’ were brushed cotton. I decided 4 pages would be enough, and chose 4 colors. I just cut them straight off the sheet, leaving their paper stickers on the back – the sides were already serged and they were ready to go. I stacked them into a book – folded edges to the front, neatly aligned, and did a couple rows of straight stitching 1/4″ from the back cut edges. (Be sure to use a long stitch length – 3.5-4 on my Bernina.) (A note on size: My finished needlebook was 4″ x 3.25″, this was a great size for me, but keep in mind what size you want when you select what swatch sampler you are cutting ‘pages’ from.)
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The paper on the back definitely gives more bulk and stiffness, but it makes it easier for me to flip the pages and because each page is doubled, I can slide my fingers inside the page to make it easier to add needles, and I can tuck the thread in the needles inside its page! If there is a usable length of thread left on my needle, I like to just store it like that so it’s ready to go next time.

If you are particular about the placement of the design on your covers, go ahead and cut out a piece of paper slightly larger than your book so you can play around with that. Use tracing paper if you need to see the design on the fabric for that ideal placement. I planned on only serging the edges of my cover, so I didn’t need to leave very much room around the edges.
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Mark which edge has the stitched ‘spine’ of your book on your paper, and when you place it on the cover fabric, make sure that edge is to the center of the cover fabric and there is enough cover fabric to fold it over and make both front and back covers in one. (If not, you’ll have to plan for a seam allowance.)
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Go ahead and chalk the outline of the first side and then flip your paper over and chalk the outline of the second side – lining up the spine edge. As you can see in my photo, there was a bit of an overlap from the ideal front cover and back cover placement. (I did not check spine alignment, just got my ideal front and back squares and figured I’d wing it.) I was VERY particular about my design placement and really had to work the placement and squish the cover onto the book to ensure it came out exactly right. (And then I went and sewed the book in backwards the first time…)
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Cut your cover fabric a little larger than your chalk line so you can adjust if you need to. I just pinched it together in the proper placement and then took a little slice off each edge to show what was excess. Then I placed the cover flat on my cutting mat and used the ruler to cut off that excess in straight lines.
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Then I took my perfectly (sort of)-measured cover fabric and serged all edges with a tight silver edge to match the silver design on the fabric. I left some thread hanging off the corners, threaded a big-eye needle into the back of the serged row, tucked those loose threads into the eye, and pulled it through. Pull taut and trim. This buries and hides the end and will prevent it from unraveling, keeping your corners nice. Just be sure to pull the serged end of threads smooth before you do this (it comes off the machine in tight loops, just pull it out smooth – 2 threads will be much longer than the third, now you’re ready to bury the ends and trim them all off).
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Trim your book spine even – don’t cut off your 1/4″ seam allowance, just even it up so it’s just a little short of that 1/4″. Place your finished cover around your book, squish it around until you get the alignment right, then DOUBLE-CHECK that you put it together properly, then sew the cover to the book 1/4″ in from the spine, using a long stitch length. You only need to sew once, twice if you really want to reinforce (I went a little nuts with the sewing), since these seams won’t be getting very stressed.

Sew a pretty button to the front, and a little loop of elastic to the back cover. (Make it pretty and use a colorful hair elastic to match your colors!). Admire your handiwork, then fill with the needles you have laying around all over the house in random cereal bowls, spools of thread, on bookshelves, and . TA-DA!!! A 10-minute project (if you don’t screw up repeatedly… ) and I have a FUNCTIONAL, pretty, elegant, needlebook!!
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Sewing Room Hacks…

DIY TRACING TABLE/LIGHT BOX:

One of the sewing groups I’m in had several members asking how to see the pattern lines under thicker tracing paper we sometimes use, like medical exam paper (a popular choice) and butcher paper.  Vintage patterns are especially prone to having faint lines that can be difficult for even the most eagle-eyed of us to trace accurately.  My friend Adrianna has the best, easiest, solution for this!!

She took 2 saw horses, stuck a glass table top from IKEA across the top of it, took two clamp-on work lights and clamped them to opposite legs – pointing up at the underside of the glass.  When they are turned on, they make even the smaller notches and marks crystal clear!  Plus, the set-up can be used as a regular table, is easy to disassemble and put away, and you even easily put a little bit of storage room underneath the table!!

Bonus: Don’t forget, light boxes can be used for all kinds of crafting projects where tracing would come in handy!

 

PATTERN STORAGE AND ORGANIZATION:

I’ve also seen lots of questions about how to store and organize your patterns, so thought I’d share my method.  I use filing cabinets – I have one vertical and 1 lateral.  I divide my patterns into two main groups: New patterns, and patterns I’ve already made.  Patterns I’ve already made are put in their own drawer.  On the front of the envelope I put a post-it note that says which view I made, which garment it is, and any critical notes (doesn’t fit right, take in bust 2″, lengthen 3″, etc.). This is only a short note – I keep full notes separately (see below).

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New patterns are sorted by type of garment – jackets, skirts, dresses, pants.  On a pattern with several garment types – like the photo above, I file it under the garment type I am most interested in. I also keep a list of the patterns in an Excel spreadsheet that lists the brand, pattern number, and location (ie, filed with jackets), and any other details I care about (size, fabric type, yardage, whatever is most important to you).

In the lateral filing cabinet, I needed a way to keep the columns of patterns neat and separate so they didn’t squish into each and get untidy.  I found my local grocery store yielded two IDEAL box sizes – 1 for normal-width envelopes, 1 for wide:

The boxes are almost exactly the same length as the drawer, and they allow me to fit the pattern columns very close together!  To save on both space and the number of boxes needed, I alternate 1 column of loose (boxless) with 1 column in a box.  Here you can see all the patterns tightly wedged in together very neatly:

 

And finally, my tip on how I keep my pattern notes.  There are many different ways to do this, this is NOT the most efficient, but I like it… I buy an 8″ x 6″ spiral-bound artists pad.  I only use 1 sheet per pattern, and always leave the back of the sheet blank – so if I ever rip them out and put them in a notebook, I don’t have to choose or worry about splitting the page 😉

On the top of each page, I put a descriptive name for the garment: “Sakura”, “Gray Roses”, “Silver Rain”, “Opera Cloak”, etc. I put the date I completed the garment.  Then I list any patterns I used, their view and size.  I list the fabrics used and the price I paid for them (best guess), ditto with any trims or closures. I tape in a tiny swatch of the fabric(s), add notes about needed alterations, the amount of time it took to make, and anything else I might want to know later.

 

What kinds of tips and tricks do you use to keep your stash organized?

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